50 years ago, no one thought that we’ll be able to scan and print daily use objects, machine components, and even buildings with a few clicks on a computer. However, times have changed and advances in 3D printing and 3D scanning technologies have opened the door to new possibilities.
Today, 3D printing and 3D scanning are at the forefront of cutting-edge innovations and have become a crucial part of several industrial processes. In the following text, we’ll go through the benefits of 3D printing and 3D scanning technologies. We’ll also go through some major applications of these technologies and see how they can be leveraged to optimize your existing processes.
3D scanning is a breakthrough technology that renders highly accurate 3D models replicating real-world objects or environments by measuring data on its appearance. These scanners use the triangulation method to capture the distortions in light after it comes in contact with a surface. These distortions are then used to create a data cloud that takes the shape of the object you are scanning. To ensure accurate readings, 3D scanners usually process all surfaces of an object multiple times and compare the overlaps to create precise 3D models in the shortest time.
3D printing – also known as additive manufacturing – is the process of creating solid objects directly from a digital file. 3D printers achieve this by adding layers of material on top of each other to create a single object. Unlike traditional methods, this type of manufacturing leads to less wastage and allows you to create complex geometries, which were hard to achieve.
In the early days, this technology was mostly used for research and development purposes. With time, this technology became accessible and cost-effective, which made it immensely popular in many industries. Today, a lot of business functions rely on 3D printing for their day-to-day processes and special processes. The technology has seamlessly integrated into a lot of industries and continues to grow at an exceptional pace.
3D Scanning and 3D Printing Workflow for Reverse Engineering
Reverse engineering involves deriving the original blueprint from the final product. Using 3D scanning, you create a digital model of a physical object. While the work might sound complicated, the process of reverse engineering is quite simple. Using the right equipment and by following this guide, you can easily breeze through it all.
Step 1: Scanning the Object
The first thing to note is that most 3D scanners can’t process transparent or shiny surfaces. You’ll need to take some extra steps to make sure your object is ready to be scanned. It is common practice to cover shiny surfaces with a removable powder or a matte spray that gives them texture and make it easier for the 3D scanner to register the object. This is a crucial step that can have a direct impact on the overall quality of your scan.
Once you are done, place the object in its assigned space and start the scanning process. Both handheld and mounted scanners may require multiple repetitions to cover the entire object. Depending on the complexity of your shape, the scanning process may take a few seconds or a few minutes.
Step 2: Modifying the Mesh File
All 3D scanners produce a mesh file in the STL format. The format is suitable for 3D printing, but most applications need some edits before starting the printing process. It is quite difficult to manipulate mesh files, so they are always converted into a popular CAD format for edits and further processing. Many industrial CAD tools come with an integrated converter, so the process is not that difficult.
Step 3: Extracting the Profile and Making Required Edits
To generate the shape, you can choose from three forms of surfacing: semi-automatic, manual, and automatic. The quickest option out of the three is automatic. It reduces the chances of human error and renders a solid model pretty seamlessly. Once the digital 3D model is generated, you are free to make all the required edits and proceed with other processes to perfect your design and make it suitable for 3D printing.
Step 4: 3D Printing
As stated before, STL is the most suitable format for 3D printers, so you’ll have to convert your CAD design again. The actual process of 3D printing depends on your material, printer capability, and various other factors.
The four steps above may seem time-consuming, but the technology has advanced enough to execute everything in the shortest time. Obviously, many additional factors determine the overall speed. However, if you do everything correctly, a simple 3D can be ready for printing within an hour.
Which 3D Scanner Works Best With a 3D Printer?
Your 3D scanner is not supposed to have an impact on the 3D printing process. However, having a quality 3D scanner is still important. You need your scanner to capture all the details of the object you are scanning and any quality 3D scanner in the market can achieve those results.
Fundamentally, blue light scanners work better in many applications as they are not that affected by light and are generally more versatile.
3D scanners that use white light or laser to triangulate the object tend to have many pre-requisites and are very sensitive to the outside light. In many cases, you have to carry out your scans in the dark, which limits the overall applications of such scanners.
Blue light beams have a narrower wavelength and better filtering capabilities. Additionally, these scanners capture digital models of required objects with greater precision, accuracy, and quality.
Common Applications and Benefits of 3D Printing and Scanning
3D scanning and printing have numerous applications throughout the industry. Nowadays, it is quite hard to find an application where 3D printing or scanning hasn’t made an impact. Here are some of the most major applications of 3D scanning and printing to give you an idea of how versatile and flexible these technologies are.
1 – Research
Both 3D scanning and 3D printing have a huge role to play in the R&D sector. From new composite materials to testing out innovative designs previously impossible to make, 3D printing has enhanced the possibilities.
3D printing technology is among the few domains where the R&D sector is both the biggest contributor and the benefactor. Advances in this technology in terms of speed, accuracy, and material capabilities not only help other industries in their product development lifecycles but also pave the way for further research.
2 – Rapid Prototyping
Perhaps the best-known application of these technologies is rapid prototyping. 3D printing has proven to be a gamechanger for product development which traditionally required a lot of time and resources. As the name suggests, the process is faster than any of its counterparts. This characteristic expedites the product development process and allows you to quickly test out prototypes, gather investments, and release your product in the market.
The best thing is that a quicker turnaround time doesn’t need any compromises on quality and accuracy. With 3D scanning, a design can be replicated and modified at varying steps to produce a physical object. This enables you to add consistent improvements to the sample design and get a clearer idea of what needs to be modified before final delivery.
3 – Mass Production
Although 3D printing is not a suitable choice for mass-producing an object, the technology still plays an important role in optimizing it.
Take injection molding as an example. It is among the cheapest and fastest ways of mass-producing plastic objects. However, the process can’t start without a mold, which requires resources and time for preparation. This means that you can’t introduce design changes immediately because of time and cost constraints. Another long-standing problem in the manufacturing industry is the complexity of different shapes. A lot of efficient designs were discarded in the past because they were too complicated to be machined.
3D printing has completely changed this game! The same mold that used to require countless manhours to perfect can be delivered in a few hours with 3D printing. You can also introduce numerous design changes at any time you want and that’s not all. The technology has unlimited potential and can handle all kinds of shapes without using any additional resources. 3D printing services, for instance, can deliver the most complex shapes in the same timeframe and without any extra charges because of the versatility of this technology.
4 – Bio-printing and Medical Prosthetics
Bio-printing might be the next breakthrough in medical sciences. The technology is still developing and there are a lot of hurdles before it is ready to be available commercially. However, its excellent potential and encouraging results are turning a lot of heads. Bio 3D printers can be used to construct full-fledged vascular systems by layering organic cells on top of each other. With this technology, you can create suitable working organs with a press of a button, effectively ending transplantation waiting lists. At the moment, tissue-engineering is being researched for its viability in rehabilitative surgery. Once successful, this could be a game-changer!
Another area where 3D printing and scanning have created a lot of impact is prosthetics. Traditional prosthetics required a lot of iterations and other painful procedures before they could be effectively used. All injuries and amputation are not the same, so you can’t standardize the process as well. With 3D scanning and printing, these problems no longer exist. Now, you only need a few seconds for a painless 3D scan, and you’ll get a custom-fitted prosthetic limb within a few hours.
5 – Industrial Maintenance
Maintenance takes up a significant percentage of any industrial environment’s running costs. In many cases you can avoid those costs or at least reduce them through preventive maintenance and 3D scanning can help with that. This technology allows you to analyze the present condition of your equipment and some integral parts without disassembling the machine. You can identify multiple distortions, stresses, other faults, and rectify them before they create a huge issue.
Another area where both 3D scanning and 3D printing play a crucial part is in the maintenance of legacy industrial equipment. Most OEM businesses stop producing spare parts of their older models after some time, but there are still many industries that rely on those machines for their operations. Custom building a specific part for a single order is not feasible for any party so companies needing the part usually rely on 3D scanning and printing to create them in-house. Moreover, some businesses avoid OEM parts even when they are in circulation due to their high cost, and prefer to use their own facility.
6 – Jewelry
In recent years, 3D printing technology has seen various deviations in terms of its usage. The convenience and versatility of 3D printing have made it possible for jewelers to come up with more intricate designs and replicate them with more precision. With the help of the right equipment, people can even make excellent jewelry at their homes.
Using the 3D Technological Combo at Tangent Solutions
Working with 3D technology can be a little complicated. You’ll also need to keep up with the latest advancements and invest in the best equipment to get started. Luckily, 3D printing and 3D scanning services like Tangent Solutions have got you covered. Thanks to our experienced team and state-of-the-art equipment, we guarantee the best results at the most competitive prices and in the shortest time. Whether you want to get a 3D scan for reverse engineering or test out prototypes. Tangent Solutions can handle all your demands with its wide range of exceptional services. Get in touch with our expert team, committed to delivering the best in 3D technologies across the United States, today to get started.